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One of Yorkshire cricket’s favourite sons - and one of its most iconic and successful cricketers - Dennis Brian Close CBE was born in Rawdon near Leeds on 24 February 1931. The charismatic Close was revered and respected by both Yorkshire folk and the world’s cricketing community.
He was widely considered to be one of the bravest cricketers ever to play the game anywhere in the world. He was a fearless fielder in 'suicidal' positions close to the bat and would never flinch when facing up to the fastest and most lethal bowling. Who could ever forget the battering that Close took from Michael Holding during the 1976 Test series against the West Indies, and the fearless way he dealt with this onslaught?
Affectionately regarded by all who played under him, Close had that rare ability of remaining `one of the boys’ even when captaining the side. Undoubtedly and deservedly, Close is widely considered the most popular and highly-rated Yorkshire captain of all time whose team-mates found it a privilege to be part of his side.
In the 1950-51 Test series Down Under, it is generally believed that the young Close had a very unhappy time both on and off the field. However, the remarkable collection of letters, written to his close friend, John Anderson – which form a key element of the Brian Close Archive – contradict this opinion, evidencing that he revelled in the social life.
For a teenager brought up in hardship after the Second World War it provided him with a lifestyle and opportunities which he could never for a moment have envisaged. This is reflected in his intimate correspondence with the Best Man at his wedding, Anderson.
The Brian Close Archive - now reunited having been fragmented in recent years through the work and diligence of the Yorkshire Cricket Foundation’s [YCF] Archive Committee - is a remarkable, revealing and human testimony to the life and times of an outstanding cricketer, in service of his county and country.
Not only does the extensive Archive – which contains over 1,100 items - comprise the highly personal letters and postal communication he exchanged with Anderson but also comprises an impressive assembly of personal memorabilia relating to one of Britain’s sporting heroes.
It is envisaged that part of the Archive will be displayed within the East Stand Museum at the Emerald Headingley Cricket Ground later in the year; some of it will also be placed online and certain items will be exhibited at other venues.
Close made his first-class debut against Cambridge University at Fenner's in May 1949, and played for the county until, somewhat ironically, he played his last first-class game for Yorkshire versus Somerset at Hull in September 1970, later joining his opponents, the following season.
During that period, he played in 22 Tests for England between 1949-76 – seven as captain. England lost none of them.
Brian Close made his England Test debut against New Zealand at Manchester when he was 18 years and 149 days old. To this day, he remains the youngest player ever to represent England. At Melbourne, in the 1950-51 Ashes series, he became the youngest at 19 years and 301 days to represent England against Australia.
He captained Yorkshire from 1963 to 1970, lifting the County Championship title on four occasions and winning the Gillette Cup twice.
An all-rounder of the highest calibre, he scored 22,650 first-class runs in 536 matches for Yorkshire, making him the ninth highest runs scorer in the Club's history; took 967 wickets, the fifteenth highest total; and held 564 catches, the third highest number by a fielder.
By the time Close ended his first-class career - playing for a D.B. Close’s XI against the New Zealanders, at Scarborough in 1986 and some 37 years after making his debut - he had amassed a truly extraordinary 34,994 runs (including 52 centuries), taken 1,172 wickets and took 813 catches.
It should also be remembered that he was a more-than-proficient association footballer too, on the books at Leeds and Arsenal, and representing Bradford City six times and scoring two goals.
Paul Goodman, Yorkshire Cricket Foundation Heritage Manager commented “This is a wonderful addition to the developing Yorkshire Cricket Archive, especially because it relates to one of Yorkshire’s most revered figures and, particularly, because the Members and supporters have been instrumental in its acquisition. It is rare in any sport to encounter an archive by, or relating to, one individual which is not only comprehensive, but which simultaneously provides immensely human and poignant insights into their character.”
Robin Smith, Chairman of the Yorkshire Cricket Foundation, said: “It is a great privilege for the Foundation, and for me personally, to have secured Brian Close's remarkable archive, not only for the Yorkshire Cricket Community but also for cricket enthusiasts worldwide. Brian was a lovely man, respected by all with whom he came into contact or who simply admired his prowess from afar, and I am delighted that we now have the opportunity to throw further light on the life of this great cricketer and gentleman".
Will Saville, Head of the Yorkshire Cricket Foundation, said: “It’s fantastic to have the Brian Close’s collection as part of the Yorkshire Cricket Archive. Brian is a legend of England and Yorkshire Cricket, and a character that everyone looked up to. As the Club’s charity and the community arm of Yorkshire Cricket we are keen to use the power of our county’s cricket heritage to inspire new generations, and the Brian Close Archive and his cricketing story will help us to do that.”
The Yorkshire Cricket Foundation is the community arm and registered charity of Yorkshire Cricket. The work of the charity is based around 4 core themes; Education, Health, Participation and History & Heritage. Using the power of sport and cricket in particular, the foundation seeks to engage with people of all ages and in all communities across Yorkshire. Cricket is the hook used to get people interested and engaged, and from there the foundation delivers a wide range of community outreach and education initiatives, with the aim of changing lives and developing communities.